Handing Out Wisdom

Handing Out Wisdom

Ohio native Tim Adam took matters into his own hands and created the highly successful Handmadeology website for creative business owners.

by Stephanie Finnegan

Courtesy of Handmade Business

Through his Handmadeology website, Tim Adam offers personal insight, experience, and tools for creative business owners who want to succeed.

Comic Lily Tomlin once observed that society couldn’t function if we all grew up to be what we dreamed of as children: ''Imagine a world populated by nothing but nurses and ballerinas, firemen and cowboys! Who would pick up the trash?'' That wry comment has garnered Tomlin a lot of laughs throughout the years, but it also contains a real salient message, a very wise point about finding out who you are and discovering it might not be anything you ever conceived of becoming. We all can’t grow up to wear tutus or Stetsons, so how do we uncover what we are meant to do?

Clock Face and Gears

Before creating the website to help other like-minded creative souls figure out how to maneuver the new, bold world of selling and self-promoting, Tim Adam was a hands-on designer of furniture, jewelry, and other metal marvels, such as the clock face and gears shown here.

A Bird’s-Eye View
A brilliant example of this surprising twist of fate--finding great success and contentment where he never would have suspected--is 35-year-old Timothy ''Tim'' Adam. The Canton, Ohio, native is known in arts-and-crafts circles as a guru of cyber commerce. He’s a mentor, a publisher, an editor, and an expert on how to achieve sales and recognition in the highly competitive arena of Internet marketplaces. All of this has come out of left field when Adam’s childhood is placed under the microscope.

''I did not enjoy art or being creative as a child,'' he candidly states. ''I did have a vast imagination, though.'' He also had a mother who was ''crafty,'' and perhaps her genes for jewelry making, basket making, and sewing lurked somewhere in his soul.

Rather than seeming to be the hands-on sculpting type, Adam gravitated more to the sciences, and received an associate degree in environmental engineering from Stark State College.

Holding various ''non-self-expressive jobs''--like the delivery driver for a window company--Adam seems the least likely candidate to be a voice for how to corner the Etsy and other cyber sales spaces. His life turned around when in 2004--just a scant decade ago--he was asked to assist his sister-in-law in building some metal pieces for her home.
Handmadeology founder Tim Adam

Handmadeology founder Tim Adam began his connection to the crafts world as an artist/designer working in the medium of metal.

Books by Tim Adam

Tim Adam firmly believes that he is doing just what he was meant to do. In addition to the blogs, guest columns, and advice found on the website, he has also authored helpful books for artists looking to make more money and raise their profiles.

''She is a furniture designer, and she asked for my help. I got certified as a MIG (metal inert gas) welder to learn the trade. I ended up loving every second of it! After the projects were finished, my sister-in-law let me take the equipment home and start making furniture--with the intent to pay her back, which I did do,'' Adam explains.

After that brush with metal, tools, welding--combined with designing, styling, and untapped creativity--the 25-year-old was hooked. He launched his own stable of jewelry and fur-niture creations, and ventured into Etsy as his sales platform. Within three years, in 2007, his Etsy shop had such a burst of sales activity, he left his outside job and concentrated entirely on his art.

Soaring to Unexpected Heights
For many people, this is where the story would end: The kid who never counted himself as creative finds satisfaction and a steady stream of income via his imagination and talent. Though that’s definitely what did happen, it’s just the first step in Adam’s reinvention, innovation, and invigoration of his destiny.

In 2009, he decided to take the lessons he’d learned and share them with other craftspeople. Drawing upon his science background, he decided to call his website ''Handmadeology,'' paying homage to biology, geology, sociology, and anthropology: ''I came up with the name, and ‘the science of handmade’ just fit. The original intent was to teach people how to sell their handmade items online. The site was simply going to be a blog, with free info and also courses to buy.''
Sculpture by Adam

Before becoming an adviser and a mentor to aspiring, fledgling, and curious creative business owners, Adam created furniture, jewelry and metal art. Here is one of his past creations.

Tim Adam

Tim Adam and his photographer wife, Christina, pose with their two children. The family homestead is also the site for Handmadeology’s office and studio space.

Since its inception in 2009, Handmadeology has exploded. Today, it has grown into ''a community of 185,000 creative business owners, and that’s just on Facebook alone,'' Adam asserts.

Steady and Consistent Save the Day
Today, Adam works as the sole pair of hands behind the popular and informative site. He runs the business out of his home in Canton, which he shares with his wife, Christina (a pho-tographer), and their two children, Macy and Camden.

He sees the key to online success as one word: ''consistency.'' That’s a mantra he beats repeatedly. He also urges anyone who has been avoiding cyber platforms to rethink and reconsider: ''Artists have the choice now to go to the fair, the show, and the gallery route. However, I believe that without an online presence, they are missing HUGE opportunities. When I first started out selling my metal furniture and jewelry, I attended shows and sold in local galleries. That was the only way I knew. When a friend told me about Etsy, I discovered that I could sell my metal all over the world, and then the show-and-gallery grind was over. The ability to reach customers all over the world via the Web has changed the state of the arts-and-crafts world.''

Though he’s hung up his welding gear, and admits that he does miss the opportunity to fashion furniture, conjure up jewelry, and melt metal, he is deeply immersed in the business of teaching others how to make a dent in what can seem like a crowded and oversaturated Internet world.

''Handmadeology is my full-time job, but it’s not a job to me. I love helping others and hearing from my fans and readers on a daily basis. All of this confirms to me that I am doing what I am meant to do,'' he observes. ''When I launched the site in 2010, I set out with a goal to publish five articles a day for the first year. I did this knowing what topics artists needed and wanted to know about. I also made sure at that time that all my social media channels were set up and ready to go.''

Guitar-Shaped Table

''My guitar-shaped table has a great story behind it,'' Adam shares. ''This table sold out of my Etsy shop to Barneys NYC. At that time in 2007, it was the highest-sold item at $2,500."

Helping Others Take Flight
Though Adam has pooh-poohed the notion of being born with a creative/artistic streak, it is evident that he came into this world with an extra helping of discipline and commitment. These were his innate abilities that he cultivated, and he is able to teach less-resolute people how to achieve this single-mindedness: ''Through Handmadeology, there are a number of courses that a creative business owner can take. They range from social media to our newest course called 'Etsy Shop Revival.' This is five hours of video training, 14 lessons, six downloads and 10 no-holds-barred Etsy shop critiques.''

In one-on-one meetings or group settings, Adam addresses and demonstrates what an artist needs to do to navigate the ins and the outs of managing a handmade business: ''I can help, and have helped, artists with blogging, social media marketing, SEO (search engine optimization) and more. Handmadeology does have its own marketplace, which I recommend as a supplement to an Etsy shop.''

Pressed again to share the ''secret formula'' or hidden method for his online achievements, he once again exhorts the notion of ''consistency.'' This is the bedrock for his standing in the community.

''If you are a Handmadeology fan, you will hear me say this over and over. Consistency is the key. I have to stress this. I can’t get it across enough. You will NEVER gain or maintain growth without consistency. In my metal design business, the key--as you might have guessed--was consistency,'' Adam emphasizes once more. ''Here was my metal design process: I’d design, make, photograph, list online, blog about that item, and then post on social media. Being consistent is hard work, and it can be frustrating. But by doing what you love, you will always love what you do. You need to make sure you are enjoying every process of running a creative business. Remember, you are the boss!''

Adam’s Admonitions
Here are 7 truths that Tim Adam stands behind and encourages all handmade business owners to embrace.

  1. Running a creative business is hard work. If you want your business to thrive, treat it like a business, not a hobby.
  2. The upside of Etsy is that you can get your shop up and running in no time. Etsy has an amazing community of like-minded creative business owners who are willing to help.
  3. The downside of Etsy--and it’s a big one. Sellers sometimes have an ''entitled mind-set'' when they start to sell there. There is NO magic ''Etsy'' button. You still have to put in hard work to drive traffic to your shop. You will get some traffic straight from the Etsy search, but NEVER rely on it as your only means of traffic.
  4. Every artist needs to be on social media. You need to find out what works best for you and what you are willing to spend time on.
  5. Facebook and Pinterest are a MUST for success. Remember: If you are not consistent with your posting and participating and growing of social media, it will not work for you!
  6. I believe we all have that spark inside us to want to own something that has a story. When a customer buys a true handmade piece, which has been created and cared for by an artist every step of its creation, he or she is not just buying a creation or a gift that costs more. Your customer is buying a story. Your customer is buying YOUR story. Promote that!
  7. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. That is the key for my success, and for yours.